The last impression of a wine is the finish: The taste that stays on the palate after the wine has been swallowed. The length of the finish is the final indicator of the wine's quality. That taste can be short and crisp, or it can linger for a minute or more, continuing to unfold the flavor secrets of the wine before finally fading away. Generally, more extensive finishes will be evident in higher quality wines; 20 to 30-seconds is good for the average bottle of wine and when it reaches 45 seconds, it is showing powerful flavors and careful crafting. It is not uncommon for spectacular wines to last as long as a minute or even more. These everlasting finishes are the hallmark of great wines, increasing pleasure and adding value beyond the palate!
When drinking a dry white wine, you will usually find a clean, crisp finish. With age, the wine tends to soften and the finish will become more round (subtle changes and fading) and long. Oak aging imparts a longer, more complex finish. Riesling is generally in the 30 second area, crisp and refreshing. A California Chardonnay or White Burgundy may be more powerful, stretching out to the 45/60-second mark.
Young reds will generally possess a linear finish, one with singular taste appeal. These reds tend to be lighter in taste and are more approachable for the uninitiated palate. But the truly world-class reds produce a long, lingering taste in the mouth which continues to develop and which is as complex as the wine itself. Bordeaux and Burgundy are two styles that typically have long finishes, as does Zinfandel and Cabernet. Merlot, Chianti and Beaujolais are light and somewhat crisp, generally shorter on the finish but still very pleasant.